Opinion: That’s entertainment?

Consultant Peter Backman considers whether there is a gap in the market to combine food delivery and entertainment...

I enjoy paradoxes – things that are but shouldn’t be – because they can tell us about the world. Take the frequently voiced view that nowadays people want ‘entertainment’. So, the theory goes, build them pleasure palaces where they can be entertained – climbing walls, darts venues, trampoline parks. The fact that many retail sites are being repurposed for these activities is a side issue arising out of the needs of landlords to ensure their properties generate rental revenue.

Or take another frequently voiced view (and not only a view but an actuality) – that people want restaurant meals to be delivered to them at home. Now, delivery is not entertaining (unless you regard tracking the rider’s progress from kitchen to your front door as being fun). Instead, delivery is a pretty transactional activity with, I would argue, absolutely minimal entertainment value.

So, here’s the paradox: people (primarily younger people, even though that doesn’t change the overall point) want two contradictory things – they desire both entertainment-free delivery and entertainment. The paradox can be resolved by recognising that some people (or all people, but only for some of the time) sometimes want entertainment and sometimes they want delivery. Neither of these are fundamental to people’s worldview or their basic needs (food is fundamental – how it is delivered isn’t), so both requirements can be held in people’s minds at the same time.

Indeed, there is an example of combining entertainment and delivery. Many years ago, telegrams were a significant medium for sending urgent messages, or long distance messages of note – birthday wishes, wedding congratulations and the like. In 1933, to make these latter messages more entertaining and therefore more valuable, Western Union launched a singing telegram service in the US where the deliverer sang a friendly ditty. Never mainstream, and overcome by changing technology, the singing telegram nevertheless lasted until the mid-1970s.

Maybe, then, there is an opportunity to create a business that marries entertainment with food delivery? But be aware that, since entertainment and delivery define a paradox, together they are almost certainly likely to be transient (perhaps measured over years not months). And since they are transient, they will continually evolve.

So, be ready for constant change. And what will an entertaining restaurant meal delivery service be like in practice? Rihanna and Jay-Z singing Talk That Talk as they deliver your pizza? Raw Hamburger by Kool and The Gang with your burger and fries? Does that sound like fun?

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